Echoes of Christmas past still sparkle in a Minneapolis neighborhood

  • Article by: KIM PALMER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 14, 2013 - 10:29 PM

Year after year, a Minneapolis man has made it his holiday mission to transform his home into a wonderland to enchant guests.

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Holidays offer an excuse to go over the top with decorating. But few go as far over the top as Michael Kuczkowski.

“I’ve always loved Christmas,” he said. “Every room has some Christmas in it.”

Over the years, Kuczkowski kept expanding his seasonal decor until his 1,450-square-foot home in Minneapolis’ Bryn Mawr neighborhood was filled with Christmas trees. Lots of Christmas trees — 40 of them last holiday season.

Not just simple trees with lights and a few baubles but lavish, themed holiday creations, such as the peacock tree in his foyer, the butterfly tree in his TV room and the small forest of dramatic Chinese-inspired trees on his front porch.

“One guy walked in and said, ‘It’s so Bloomingdale’s!’ ” Kuczkowski said. “I think he meant it in a nice way.”

Transforming his house into a holiday spectacle was no small task.

Kuczkowski usually started his decorating a couple of weekends before Christmas, getting all those trees up and in place. Then he took a week off work, plus the two weekends on either end, to add finishing touches. “I blast through it,” he said. “I get in the zone and spend 15, 16 hours a day on it.”

What drives him to invest so much time and effort on such an elaborate setting for just a few short weeks?

“Sharing it, sharing it, sharing it,” he replied. The New York native moved to Minneapolis about eight years ago, and though he doesn’t have relatives here,

his house was filled with people — friends, neighbors and co-workers — all holiday season long. “I entertain at Christmas and in summer when the garden’s blooming,” he said. “I like to cook, and I have parties just about every night.”

‘Enchanted’

Guests’ jaws often dropped when they got their first look at the house in its fairy-tale holiday finery.

“It felt like you were walking into an enchanted place — an enchanted Christmas world,” said Karen Gemill of Deephaven, a former co-worker who attended a holiday dinner party at Kuczkowsi’s.

“I spent many holidays there,” said friend and former colleague Jenn Dingmann of Plymouth. “The first time I visited, I remember thinking, ‘Wow! Winter wonderland.’ Even pulling up to the house — the whole experience. Experiencing Michael’s Christmas magic brought your inner child out.”

Her own child, not quite age 5, also was impressed. “He remembered the decorations from year to year, and he said, ‘Mom, it’s so magical!’ ” Dingmann said. He especially loved a toy train displayed on one of the trees.

Kuczkowski enjoyed watching children’s reactions to his decor. “Kids love it,” he said. “Their parents are worried they’re going to break something, but they’re really respectful. They hold back and really look at it.”

Despite the carefully rendered themes, Kuczkowski said he decorates mostly by instinct. “People ask, ‘What’s the plan?’ I have no plan,” he said. “It’s emotional.”

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  • Michael Kuczkowski posed with his dogs Nichols and Mae in his Minneapolis living room last December, when his holiday decor included 40 lavishly decorated Christmas trees. “Every room has some Christmas in it,” he said.

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